Opposition leader becomes new Spanish PM after Rajoy forced out

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Madrid, June 1 (IANS) Pedro Sanchez, the leader of Spain’s opposition Socialist Party, took over as the country’s new Prime Minister on Friday after Mariano Rajoy was forced out of office by a no confidence vote in Parliament.

Rajoy was toppled by a corruption scandal involving members of his Popular Party (PP) and became the first leader in Spain’s modern democracy to lose a vote of no trust in Parliament, the BBC reported.

Sánchez, 46, secured the needed majority of 176 votes out of 350 seats in Spain’s lower chamber. “We’re going to sign a new page in the history of democracy in our country,” Sánchez said.

A loose multi-party coalition decided to oust Rajoy and his right-wing party following a national court verdict in which several of its former top officials were found guilty of setting up a vast network of corruption in fraudulent financial dealings including bribery, embezzlement, forgery, misuse of public funds, money laundering, tax crimes and influence peddling, among others.

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Rajoy’s party had also been found guilty of profiting from fraudulent financial practices perpetrated by some of its senior officials. He had been Prime Minister since 2011.

The deciding votes in Rajoy’s ouster were cast by the small Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which only has five lawmakers in Parliament but was crucial to bringing the motion over the 176-vote hurdle for the absolute majority required for Rajoy’s eviction and Sánchez’s elevation to the country’s highest political office.

Sánchez also had the backing of the chamber’s third-largest party, the progressive-populist alliance Unidos Podemos (“We Can,” UP), whose 71 MPs all voted for a change in government.

During the second day of debate on Friday, Rajoy admitted facing defeat and told MPs that it has been “an honour to leave a better Spain than I found”.

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Sánchez said Rajoy had failed to take responsibility for his party’s involvement in the scandal, which hit the headlines again last week after one of its former treasurers was given a 33-year jail sentence.

The High Court in Madrid convicted Luis Bárcenas of receiving bribes, money laundering and tax crimes. The case centred on a secret campaign fund which the PP ran from 1999 until 2005.

Sánchez was yet to disclose the members of his future cabinet, which could either be a minority government made up of only Socialist ministers or a mixed one with members from other parties such as UP, its largest partner in this unprecedented vote.

–IANS

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